Starting today, the Chinese dating website Baihe.com is requiring new users to register their real name upon signup, which will be verified by also inputting their national ID card number. Gone are the days of getting away with calling yourself ‘MonkeyKing83’ or the more pretentious ‘BMW535owner’ as you attempt to impress the opposite sex.
It raises the prospect of privacy concerns and potential ID theft that might be off-putting to some people. But BaiHe – which means ‘Lily’ in English – will have presumably considered that this move might actually be reassuring to users who are looking to meet genuine candidates for marriage (which is the main purpose of the site, not ‘dating’ as such).
BaiHe’s management will be mindful of a scandal, which played out on national TV that embroiled the country’s biggest dating site, Jiayuan.com (NASDAQ:DATE). That saw the service condemned for allegedly enabling swindlers and one-night stands due to its lack of real-name checks.
Tian Fan-jiang, BaiHe’s CEO, explained to the Chinese media that the real-name signup can be completed in one minute, in which the info is relayed to a national government database and then either verified or rejected as false. He also stressed that BaiHe retains only the name, and not the national ID number.
Currently on the BaiHe site – which claims to have seven million users – the signup page allows registration to the site with just a nickname, but the real-name verification part takes place in the next-step. That’s done, presumably, so as not to deter new members making that first step. As for current members of the site, there will be a three-month transition period in which existing members will be persuaded to verify their actual names. It’s not clear if people’s accounts will be deleted if they fail to do so.
Real-name usage remains controversial on broader social media in China because of the added implications of limiting free speech by attaching all tweets and posts to one identifiable – and arrest-able – individual. That has been at the root of protests by Chinese users of Google+ who say they’d prefer not to have their online activity linked to their name and ID number.